November has been non-stop. I feel like I have been treading water all month, and I'm finally just now starting to come up for air. Here's what I've been into this month!
Is it really the Christmas season if you haven't had your kids' photos taken with Santa? I like to think of photos with Santa as a way to kick off the Christmas season. This year, thanks to Dolphin Mall, we got our photos done really early!
Instead of going to see Santa and having to wait in a boring line while your kids ask, "Is it our turn to see Santa yet?" 75 times, head over to Santa's Flight Academy at Dolphin Mall and experience a fun, interactive setup. Kids get an official badge with their photo on it and get "fitted" for their virtual flight suit.
Caleb loved dancing in front of the "Flight Suit Visualizer," and we had a really great time watching him.
They also map out Santa's route and help collect cheer to power the sleigh. The sleigh is enormous and filled with all kinds of cool details.
And then they get to dance and play in the falling snow. Once they've done all of that, they get to see Santa and have their photo taken with him.
Santa's Flight Academy runs from noon through 10 pm daily until December 24th, on the Second Floor Ramblas, near the entrance of Cinebistro.
If you're looking for a fun way to kick off the Christmas season, look no further! Head over to Dolphin Mall and get your Santa photos done!
When it comes to buying kids presents, the easiest thing to do is run into a toy store or the toy section at Target and pick up whatever the hot toys are. But the truth is, while toys can entertain kids for a little while, they don't usually have longevity. And when kids are bombarded with toys all at once, they tend to play with them even less - at least, that's what I have found to be the case in our house. So I decided I would put together a post with some suggestions for you to get the kiddos in your life - suggestions that aren't toys - I even managed to score some discount codes for you!
But before we get to the list, a couple of other tips:
Also, in our house this year, we are asking family to follow this:
"One thing they want,
One thing they need,
One to wear,
And one to read."
When in doubt, stick to one of those categories - I promise you won't go wrong!
The Christmas Star from Afar
Kind of a take on a certain mischievous elf, The Christmas Star from Afar helps us to keep the focus on Christ during Christmas. You set up the wooden nativity set, and read the story. Each night, you hide the star, and in the morning, your children look for the star and put the wise men with the star. On Christmas morning, the star appears over baby Jesus, just as the star led the wise men to Jesus after his birth. I really love this idea and I'm definitely going to make this a tradition with my own children. But if you know that a family wants to keep the focus on Christ during Christmas, this is a great gift to give their children!
Black Friday Sale: 25% off with the code MERRY25 (11/23-11/26)
Use the code TOPKNOT for 10% off your set.
Book Subscription Box (Bookroo)
Bookroo is a monthly subscription for your kids that helps them fall in love with reading by combining the excitement of opening a gift with the discovery of a new, treasured book. Every month, kids get a package with new books that are individually wrapped. They have books for kids from ages 0-10 (board books ages 0-3, picture books ages 2-6, chapter books ages 7-10), and they have personal or gift subscriptions in varying lengths. Another thing that's great about this company is that it's run by three women who are sisters-in-law. I actually gift this for birthdays a lot - it's the gift that keeps on giving!
Black Friday Sale: 25% off with the code BF2018
For 15% off, use the code TOPKNOTHOLIDAY (Expires 12/31)
Lessons: Music, Swimming, Sports, Mommy & Me
Every parent wants to give their child lessons of some kind. For some kids it's swimming lessons, for others it's a sport, or even Mommy & Me Classes. But all of that can get really pricey. Why not give something that they will continue to use and cherish? Gift cards, or a certificate with a note are good ways to present this gift!
I know this is supposed to be a toy-free list, but anything that really gets kids to think scientifically and be interested in science, technology, engineering, or math is really great. STEAM is another option and incorporates art as well. If you feel like you MUST get them a toy, something that is educational and will get their brains working is always a great route to take. Caleb received these magnetic blocks last year and he really enjoys playing with them.
Subscription to a Learning App (ABC Mouse, ABCya.com, etc)
This is one of those where you have to check with parents and make sure that it would be an appropriate gift. Caleb very rarely gets to use a handheld device like a phone or an iPad, so this might not be a great fit for him, but once he is older, a subscription to a learning app would be an awesome gift.
Caleb is just getting to the age where his attention span allows him to sit down and play a board game with us. Board games like Connect Four, Perfection, and Hungry Hippos would all be great for kids his age! (Make sure you follow the age guides on the games.)
Dress Up Outfits
Over the years, Caleb has gotten a couple of dress up outfits - a doctor, a firefighter, a chef - and he uses them all regularly. There are definitely a couple more of these on his wish list this year!
Puzzles that help with letter, number, and shape recognition are always really helpful! The great thing about puzzles is that they are good for varying ages and they have everything from animals to a map of the United States. My favorites are from Melissa & Doug - they are durable and the pieces are sized appropriately for their ages.
One of my favorite things to give and get is anything with a personal touch. I really love Blop Shop's clear backpacks and travel cubes. You can get them personalized with the recipient's name and give them something that is uniquely theirs.
Tickets to a Local Attraction
Buy kids an experience and they will remember it forever. A day at the zoo or a local children's museum are really great options. Most of these places have gift options, or you could just buy passes. Bonus points if it's something you can take them to yourself and give mom & dad some time off!
Happy Shopping, friends!
The holidays always bring out the mega list-maker and crazy planner in me. Between buying gifts for everyone, the busiest time of year for me as a photographer, and typically planning vacations, birthdays, and hosting events, I’ve got lists coming out of my ears. It’s not wonder that I like to start checking things off as early as possible.
While most people don’t start thinking about Christmas photos until October or even November, the truth is that as a photographer, I typically start thinking about Christmas photos and cards well before the holiday season actually arrives.
I like to have my cards before Thanksgiving so I can send them out the following week. One great tip is that MANY cardmakers have sales going on before Thanksgiving. I don’t have to pay for faster shipping since I have time, and I can really take my time choosing my cards. This year, I’ve partnered with Minted to get the perfect Christmas cards for our family.
I’ve used Minted multiple times in the past, and I am always so happy with the quality of their cards. They have beautiful designs, ranging from minimalist to classic. You can check out some of this year’s trends in Christmas card designs here! I’m really digging the neutrals for this year, but I haven’t decided on my design just yet.
My favorite feature of theirs is that I can input all my contacts and they will address my envelopes for me! This is an enormous timesaver, and it’s probably the one part of this task that delays me immensely. But I really also love how easy their site is to use, and the fact that I can get a digital proof of my card before I order it helps me to not goof up my cards because I was trying to get them done quickly.
So if you're in need of checking something off your list, head to Minted to get your Christmas cards done. It will be one more thing off your list and one less thing to do once the season really starts to ramp up.
Here's the second look in my denim experiment. You can find the jeans and tee linked here. Since fall is in full swing everywhere but Miami, I'm going as fall as I can without sweating my butt off. A colorful plaid shirt in the thinnest flannel possible is a good way to bring in a classic fall look. The booties with a tiny heel are perfect for running errands, and the camel color is so classic that I can definitely see myself using these for years to come. And the tiny bag? Big enough to fit my phone, chapstick, my keys, my credit card, and a shopping list. The perfect bag for when my kids are not with me, ha! (Maybe for Thanksgiving errands or Black Friday shopping?)
The shirt, the shoes, and the bag are all from Gap. I've linked similar styles below. This is honestly a really comfy look and one that I can put on year after year and feel like I'm in the spirit of fall.
Photos by Sasha de Almagro
Shop My Look
I was debating whether or not I should continue writing these monthly lists, so I took a super scientific poll on my Instagram Stories (lol). 91% of those of you who voted said you actually read them, so I'll keep it going for you - but I'll be checking my Google Analytics!
With that being said, I forgot to publish one last month - the last couple months were a little bit of a blur with the lack of sleep. But I have managed to get a couple new posts out to you in the last two weeks, so I think we are on an upward swing here! Anyway, here's what I've been loving in October and what I'm looking forward to next month!
If you know me, you know I LOVE jeans. I always have. I love dresses and I love to dress up and wear fun outfits, but the truth of the matter is, I am a jeans girl. So I thought it would be fun to do a series where I dress up a pair jeans and a white tee in different ways and share the looks with you. These are 100% looks that I have worn or will wear on some occasion or another. They're all looks I created with things I already had in my closet, and I'll be sharing them with you over the next couple weeks.
The whole point of this is to give you some ideas of outfits you can wear with things you already have in your closet, or how you can update your wardrobe with just a few pieces while keeping your basics the same. I LOVE avant garde fashion and runway looks as much as the next woman, but that's just not a reality for my lifestyle. And while I love to follow all the cool fashion bloggers, a lot of their looks also don't really fit into my lifestyle. I like to look on trend but I'm also not willing to spend too much on my wardrobe (because kids, pregnancy, and an ever-changing body) nor do I have the time to go shopping every week. So every season I buy a couple of items to update my wardrobe, but I use the same basics that I have in rotation in my closet.
A pair of slim ankle-length jeans and a good quality white tee (that rings up at only $8! ).
We had our first tiny taste of cooler weather here in Miami this weekend - temperatures were the lowest they have been since May. The morning was brisk and the humidity was low, but by midday we were back in the 80s. So this look right here is doing fall in a very Miami way. I added a light scarf and a wool hat, (and even the wool hat may be too much). Pointy-toe flats and a carryall make a great look for running around town and getting errands done.
Photos by Sasha DeAlmagro
Shop the Look
I have partnered with JOHNSON’S for this post. All opinions are my own.
What is your favorite part of your day with your babies? Bath time with my babies has always been one of my favorite times of the day. It’s the one time of day where I am truly disconnected and focused 100% on them and on what I am doing. Bath time gives us endless smiles, lots of opportunity for babbling, talking, and the ever important sense of touch.
Back in July, JOHNSON’S sent me a sample of their new JOHNSON’S CottonTouch™ Newborn Wash & Shampoo and their CottonTouch™ Newborn Face & Body Lotion. I have always been partial to the smell of their original baby shampoo, and I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only person who associates the scent of JOHNSON’S with babies, but when I smelled the new CottonTouch™ line, I immediately knew that I had found a new favorite. The smell is light and fresh, and really perfect for babies. After bathing Chloe and applying lotion, I always just want to snuggle her and breathe in that smell.
The new CottonTouch™ line has both a Wash & Shampoo and a Face & Body Lotion. I have been using them on the kids (okay, okay - and on myself) since late July, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever switch away from it! While I was at the launch event for the new JOHNSON’S in August, I had the opportunity to speak with one of the lead scientists, Sandrine Alvarado. She gave me a little bit of background information on how the new CottonTouch™ line was formulated, and after hearing from her, I was even more excited about the product.
As I mentioned in a previous post, aside from a packaging facelift, the New JOHNSON’S products are hypoallergenic and are free of parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and fragrance allergens. The brand also removed dyes from all their washes, shampoos and lotions. The New CottonTouch™ Newborn Wash & Shampoo and the Newborn Face & Body Lotion are specially formulated for newborns and their sensitive skin. Of course, anyone can use these (and everyone in our house has used it).
But honestly, one of the coolest things about the new CottonTouch™ line? Both the Wash & Shampoo and the Face & Body Lotion contain actual cotton fibers. When I spoke with Sandrine, she explained that cotton fibers in the CottonTouch™ Newborn Wash & Shampoo help to keep the lather from making baby too slippery - because we all know that babies are slippery enough to begin with. She also explained that in the Newborn Face & Body Lotion, the cotton fibers help baby’s skin to absorb the lotion more quickly, because when you touch your baby, you want to feel their smooth skin, not a greasy lotion. (I can vouch for this because in the Miami humidity, I really don’t like to use body lotion that doesn’t absorb quickly. I can typically apply this and walk right out without feeling like a slippery mess!)
And another great thing about JOHNSON’S CottonTouch™ line? You can buy it from most of your favorite retailers, including Target!
So what are you waiting for? Go try it - I’m pretty sure you’ll love it as much as we do!
Photos by Sasha DeAlmagro
Hey there! It's a been a while, and odds are you haven't stopped by because I haven't had anything new to tell you. It's been nearly a month since my last post, and while I have been getting things done, attending events, and working my behind off, the truth is, I've been exhausted. The kids had both been sick on and off for almost 3 months, which led to major interruptions in their sleeping patterns. Sometime in August, Chloe went from being a perfect sleeper to needing to be rocked and nursed and coddled all night long. Caleb started school, got sick, and it was downhill from there.
I don't tell you this because I want your pity. I'm here to tell you that while social graces dictate that we should smile and "fake it till ya make it," the truth is, we don't always want to fake it, and we don't always feel like we will make it. In the roughest of my weeks, I probably mentioned to every soul I came across that my kids weren't sleeping through the night. If you were one of those people, I apologize profusely and thank you for not telling me to fly a kite. The truth is, for the last couple of months, I have felt like (and more than likely looked like) what Chloe looks like in the photo above. Crying, whiny, and perennially in a bad mood.
It's no wonder that sleep deprivation is used as a torture tactic on prisoners. Lack of sleep messes with all of your faculties - from energy levels, to brain chemical imbalances, and mood swings. I had zero energy. I couldn't focus on writing, and I was making really poor decision about what I ate. I kept putting off sleep training because it's something I've always grappled with. I fought it with Caleb, too. Once I did it, though, everyone was happier. I kept reminding myself of that.
And after a really rough night, I decided we needed to just go for it. I contacted a sleep consultant, Anet of Learn Eat Sleep, and she helped me come up with a plan for getting Chloe to sleep. We implemented it, and five days in, we've had two full nights of sleep. I feel almost superhuman. We have all woken up in good moods, we're not scrambling around because we hit snooze three times in a row, and everyone is feeling so much better about themselves.
But why a full post on this? Because while I made mention in passing on my instagram Stories about Chloe's interrupted sleeping patterns, I wasn't really forthcoming in just how bad it had gotten. Guys, it was bad. One night, after the third wakeup and spending forty minutes hearing her cry and trying to get her settled, I had to go to our room to get Eddie. I was in tears, and I told him, "I'm scared I might hurt her. I'm scared of myself." Guys, THAT is what sleep deprivation does to us. Luckily for all of us, I don't suffer from any kind of mental health issue that might have barred me from recognizing that in that moment, I was NOT OKAY. That night, I totally understood why some moms might hurt their children.
According to my social media posts, however, everything seemed "fine."
But I wasn't. And you know what? It's okay not to be fine. It's OKAY to say, "I NEED HELP."
And while you're at it asking for help, remind yourself that you don't need to compare yourself to anyone else. Because as I just proved, I'm only showing you a highlight reel. I try to be honest and transparent, I really do. But I get caught up in this world too, and I want everyone to think I'm doing great. I want to be able to do it all, because after all, in this day and age, our value is measured by how much we produce, right? And raising children doesn't give us a tangible product (I mean, aside from our kids being alive and well at the end of the day).
But this is me, being transparent. And telling you that I certainly don't have it all together. And I'm here to remind you that it's one hundred percent okay if you don't either.
And that it's okay to say "I need help," or "I need a break." Because God knows I love my kids and my husband. But really, sometimes, I need to feed my own soul. And I need time away so that I can come back fulfilled and replenished. Then I can be the best wife & mom I know how to be.
So if you're feeling worn down, momma, know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are so many of us out here, crying tears of exhaustion and frustration at 2 am. I've been there. You're not the first, and you won't be the last. So ask for help.
And hang in there mama, you've got this.
When it comes to starting solids, it seems like there are several schools of thought. There’s the traditional route of rice cereal and purées, and within that category are those who make all their purées from scratch and then there are those who use store-bought purée. There’s baby-led weaning, which is considered progressive in some cultures, but if you talk to any mom with more than two kids you’ll probably hear something about how their third started on table food much more quickly than their other children did. There are those who say, “Food before one is just for fun,” and those who feel like their babies need more than breastmilk or formula to stay satisfied.
And I’m going to tell you that however you decide to start feeding your babies solids is for you and your child’s pediatrician to decide. I like to do a large combination of all of these things because I am all about balance, reality, and the ease with which I can adapt my kids to everyday life.
But I’m also going to tell you that amidst writing this post and introducing solids to Chloe, I also had to change my entire approach. So take it all with a grain of salt, and modify when needed. There's a saying in Spanish, "Cada hijo es un mundo," and it translates to "Each child is a world." Basically, no two children are the same, and what works for one of your children may not work for another. So like with anything else related to children, adapt adapt ADAPT.
First things first. Talk to your child's pediatrician. Make sure your pediatrician thinks your child is ready to start solids. With both of my kids, since I was exclusively breastfeeding, my pediatrician's recommendation was to wait until 6 months to introduce solids. I also feel more comfortable waiting until my kids are sitting up a little better, even if it's with support, just so that they aren't flopping over.
Decide on how you will start and gather what you need. If you're buying foods, figure out which ones you need to buy. If you're making it yourself, you'll need a few additional supplies! You don't need a special baby food maker - but you will need something in which to steam your veggies, a good blender, and containers to store and freeze the foods. You can check out my Amazon Idea List to see some of the things I use.
Just start! Don't overthink it too much. If your baby is showing interest in foods, it's probably a good time to try it.
A couple of key points I follow, regardless of what methods I'm trying:
Baby-Led Weaning vs. Traditional Purees
When I was ready to introduce solids to Caleb, I did a lot of reading up and came across baby-led weaning (BLW). I thought it had some really great merits, but I was still a little hesitant. I had a conversation with a great friend about it and she told me she had done a combination of BLW and traditional purees with her twins. After talking about how she did it, I knew it was something I could really get behind.
Some of the things I liked about BLW:
So how did I integrate the two?
Whenever I tried a new food, I introduced the "solid" first. These are finger-sized pieces of food that baby can grab and bite. Vegetables are steamed or boiled so they are soft enough for baby to chew. I prepared half of the food this way and then pureed the other half. After they had a chance to explore the new food, I would give them some in puree form so that I could make sure they ingested it. So I basically combined the best of the two methods and found what worked for us.
Again, this may or may not work for you, and for Chloe, it's been an adventure. I finally figured out that she likes fruits, but she isn't crazy about veggies, so if I mix the two, she will eat it. Of course she wants nothing to do with homemade food!
If you are in the process of starting solids with your little one, I hope this helps. But again, please please please check with your child's pediatrician before you introduce solids. This is simply me experience with my children and I am not a medical professional.
Good luck, mommas (and daddies, too!)! You've got this!
About this Mom
A Miami wife and mom documenting her days with her toddler and all that comes along with it.